I didn’t intend for my last post to get as abstractly philosophical as it did, but hey. I wouldn’t be being true to myself as a writer if I curtailed my crazy tangents. I mean, sure, aforementioned crazy tangents are probably the main obstacle to my readership amassing itself to more than approximately three faithful readers. But that’s probably good, actually. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if a fourth reader entered the scene.
I’d probably scare them off with mean replies to their introductory comments, especially if those comments said anything other than, “OMG, you are so totes, like, the best writer evs. The main reading I do is txt msging, LOL. Cray-cray!” Weird, right? You’d think I’d want to chew them out for bringing their supreme idiocy and ridic abbrevs to my intellectually elite blog. The content here is obviously targeted toward a more high-brow crowd. The word literary is IN the title, for crying out loud. But I think it’s obvious why I wouldn’t chew out anyone who says nice things about my writing. To sum up, I think that, for now, I’ll stick with my digressions.
So, where were we? Right. Online dating. So here’s the deal. I keep hearing stories about all the horror that women experience in the world of online dating. In the comment section of a blog post I read a few days ago, I made the pretty bold claim that anyone who has more complaints than not about online dating is, quite simply, doing it wrong.
Here’s the thing. I’m not saying that I have never had an awkward date from online.* I’m not saying that I’ve never been inappropriately propositioned in an online message.** I’m not saying I haven’t had interactions online with people who just do not seem like quality human beings. But that’s life. Before the advent of online dating, I suffered through my fair share of awkward conversations with strangers in bars or other public places. I have also, in public venues, been sexually propositioned or inappropriately spoken to by people who don’t seem to have ever had the word boundary introduced into their vocabularies. It is unfortunate that this is the world we live in. But it is. And it’s only fair to remind ourselves that it is not confined to online dating.
With that in mind, detailed below are five steps for making online dating less painful, less discouraging, and perhaps even enjoyable, as opposed to something that could be mistaken for an Edgar Allan Poe short story called “The Torturous and Hellish and Bottomless Abyss of Lust and Liars and Nightmares.”
#1) Do not respond to everyone.
I think a lot of discouraged online daters are merely tired of keeping up with their inboxes. And why shouldn’t they be? Here are actual examples of messages that have appeared in my inbox over the course of the last couple of weeks:
Hey girl whats up?
Hey how u doin tonight?
Youve got a gorgeous smile. Just wanted to let u no that. ;)
You seem like a positive person. Msg me. Because, you know, we’re both here for the same thing. So write me back. K?
Your profile is really good.
Hi…just wonderin if you are into bi guys?
There are two ways to react to these types of messages.
Reaction Option #1: Stress out and feel the need to make tedious small talk with everyone, ignoring the clear lack of profile perusal on their part and, in some cases, the poor grammar. This reaction would mean responding in a comparable manner to the initial messages. Observe:
Hey, not much. What’s up with you?
Hey, not bad, and you?
Well, it appears we aren’t on here for the same reason because it is not my objective to send stupid messages to people.
Okay, thanks. What specifically about my profile did you like?
Okay, women. I’ll give you this one; if I wasted all my time responding to messages of that caliber, then yeah. I’d have a lot of complaints too.
However, I found a wicked little feature one day, it’s sort of hidden, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if I clicked it, but it was near the bottom of my inbox screen, and it said, DELETE. So I tried it once, and guess what? The message disappeared as poofily as the bully bunny in that one obnoxious song about the field mice.
And thus, we arrive at Reaction Option #2: Ignore the message. Amazing! Liberating! Sort of magical, even.
#2) Exchange written messages for longer than you want to.
A lot of people disagree with me on this one, but I urge you to give it a chance, even if it’s only once. I know not everybody loves writing as much as I do, and almost nobody is as good at it as I am (I’m kidding; sort of). Even so, this rule is important for everyone. I read some blog posts recently by a girl who has chosen to quit online dating because of how awful her experience was.
She explained that one of her intentional methods of approach was to exchange as few messages as possible with her dates before meeting. I can’t remember exactly what she said her reasoning was, something about not wanting to build up the wrong idea of someone in her head, or some such nonsense. However, then she ended up going on three horribly awkward dates that she forced herself to suffer through. All because she didn’t take any time to get to know these guys before the dates, so she had no idea what to expect. How she could not see that was a bad idea from the get-go is beyond me.
One of her chief complaints was how much lamer the guys ended up being than how they made themselves sound in their profiles. Umm, seriously? If that’s not a duh factor, then I don’t know what is. We all talk ourselves up in our profiles, but over time, through message and conversation, people begin to reveal who they really are, even without meaning to.
If you exchange at least five messages with someone before agreeing to meet, you’re going to have a much better idea by that time of whether you truly do want to meet up. Think about it this way: If you have trouble keeping up a steady stream of conversation via written word, chances are low that either of you will do any better in person.
#3) Transition to phone, texting, or real-life email before meeting in person.
For me, this is just a way to connect in the real world (the definition of real world here merely being not your online dating site) before actually meeting. Especially if you talk on the phone, you get a couple of steps closer to getting an idea of how this person will interact face to face, and how capable this person is of carrying on a decent conversation, and how good he or she is at telling a story or a joke.
This one is the least mandatory of all the rules, and I actually hate talking on the phone myself. In fact, I avoid it at all costs, with almost everyone, so I wash my hands of any adverse outcomes that may result from following this particular rule. (I do like to text, though.)
#4) Only agree to dates you actually want to go on.
These rules are ordered in a linear fashion, not by order of importance. Otherwise this one would be #2, right after learning how to use the delete button.
Meeting a complete stranger can be terrifying, and not just because the complete stranger might weigh 400 pounds, or be 63 years old, or try to stuff you in his trunk. It can be terrifying simply because coming up with things to say to complete strangers can sometimes be difficult. Add the pressure of trying to figure out whether this complete stranger could eventually be an intimate spouse someday, and you have a situation that I usually have a visceral reaction to.
The first couple times I tried online dating (if you’ll remember, I mentioned in Part 1 that I’m currently on attempt #3), I enjoyed messaging back and forth with people but panicked every time they asked to meet in person because I just never wanted to. But I felt like I shouldn’t say no; after all, wasn’t meeting in person the whole goal of online dating? Wasn’t I wasting everyone’s time if i said no? Why was I even on an online dating site if I didn’t want to go on dates?
This time around, however, I have given myself permission to say no, without feeling guilty, even if we’ve exchanged 20 messages. Simply put, if I’m not into it, I’m not into it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
#5) Be honest and straightforward.
Here’s where I have probably made the most mistakes because this one is just plain easier said than done. If you think a date hasn’t gone well but the other person has a different idea and asks to meet up again, invoke the D.A.R.E. tagline and Just Say No! There is a rule with IRL dating about not leading people on, and that applies to online dating too. Stop being a sissy and be honest.
Note: Being honest doesn’t have to equal being rude. There are plenty of polite ways to decline further outings, and if you aren’t confident about your ability to come up with a polite refusal when put on the spot, practice some in the mirror before you go out. You can even borrow from me if you want. Here are some sample responses to whatever variation of Can I see you again? you wish to decline:
Thank you for tonight, but I don’t think so.
It was nice meeting you, but I do not feel that our [connection/chemistry/choose your own word] is at the level I had hoped it would be.
No, thank you.
I actually have a terminal illness…
Okay, so don’t use that last one. Seriously, don’t.
Truthfully? Yes, it is always awkward to decline. Always. But we are adults, and so are our dates (or at least, they should be; if you’re finding that they aren’t, please take yourself to the nearest police station ASAP). And, if we’re talking first dates here, things just haven’t gone far enough yet for someone’s feelings to be reasonably hurt, so it’s better to be honest early on.
In conclusion, if you’re having a bitch of a time with your online dating experience, try modifying your methods. If you’re thinking about trying online dating for the first time, don’t listen to the naysayers. I promise you, it doesn’t have to be as excruciating as people make it sound. It will be whatever you make it.
*Due to Tip #4, I have only been on four first dates with guys from online, and believe it or not, only one was awkward and unenjoyable. However, that was a complete surprise, and nothing in his prior correspondence would have clued me in to the things I ended up disliking about him on the date. They were all things like mannerisms, the way he carried himself, and his lack of response to social cues. You honestly can’t learn those things about someone in emails, text messages, or on the phone. My three other dates were normal, fine, even fun.
**I have received messages from usernames that make obscene references to the size of their genitals; usernames that are unimaginative (like FirstNameLastName); usernames that are so imaginative they’re ridiculous (like Unicorns&FairiesButI’mNotGayJustIronic); and usernames that hearken back to the first days of the internet (like Sk8terBoi1983). However, when they are paired with stupid messages, I just repeat Tip #1 until my inbox is purged of the insipid.